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Chapman v. Pham

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

April 3, 2018

ALETHA CHAPMAN, Appellant
v.
THINH QUOC PHAM, Appellee

          On Appeal from County Civil Court at Law No. 3 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1006033

          Panel consists of Justices Higley, Bland, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Laura Carter Higley Justice

         Thinh Quoc Pham, appellee, sued Aletha Chapman, appellant, in a Harris County small claims court, claiming property damage caused by Chapman. Pham appealed the small claims court's take-nothing judgment to a Harris County civil court at law. Chapman now appeals the judgment rendered against her in that court.

In two issues, Chapman argues that the county court at law lacked jurisdiction because Pham did not timely appeal the justice court's judgment and that the county court at law's judgment exceeded the court's jurisdictional limits. We affirm.

         Background

         Pham filed suit against Chapman in a Harris County small claims court in July 2011. Pham alleged damage to his condominium unit following a leak in Chapman's upstairs condominium unit. The small claims court rendered a take-nothing judgment against Pham on November 29, 2011.

         On December 8, 2011, the small claims court transferred to the county court $197, identified as "plaintiff's cash appeal bond." Pham retained an attorney to represent him in the county court. Chapman briefly did the same. After a trial, the county court rendered a judgment in favor of Pham. The court awarded $6, 900 in actual damages, $5, 000 in attorneys' fees, and court costs.

         Standard of Review

         Both of Chapman's issues challenge the county court at law's subject-matter jurisdiction. We review issues challenging a trial court's jurisdiction de novo. Tex. Dept. of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004).

         Appeal of Justice Court Judgment

         In her first issue, Chapman argues that the county court lacked jurisdiction over Pham's appeal of the small claims court's judgment because Pham did not timely perfect appeal to the county court. The rule applicable at the time Pham appealed to the county court required a bond to be paid within ten days of the judgment being signed. Tex.R.Civ.P. 571, 53 Tex. B.J. 589, 605 (Tex. 1990, repealed 2013). The small claims court signed its judgment on November 29, 2011. Chapman argues that Pham's bond was not filed until December 14, 2011, outside of the ten-day window. We disagree.

         The record, as ordered to be supplemented by this Court, shows that the small claims court submitted to the county clerk-the clerk for the county court-Pham's appeal bond on December 8, 2011. This indicates that Pham paid his appeal bond on or before the 8th, within the ten-day window of the signing of the small claims court's judgment.

         The document that established the cash bond was transferred is file stamped December 14, 2011. This is the date that the document was formally filed in the county clerk's records. It is not the ...


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